Running family's father goes on trial for murdering mother

Casey Grove

Jurors in the murder trial of Robert Luch, the patriarch of a well-known Anchorage running family who is charged with killing his wife Jocelyn in 2010, heard the dying woman's voice in court Wednesday.

"My husband shot me," Jocelyn says in the recording, captured on a police officer's audio recorder. "Please help me. It hurts."

The Luches' three daughters, all in their early 20s, bowed their heads. One sobbed into a tissue. Their brother glared angrily as a television camera panned on the four siblings, sitting side-by-side just behind their father.

It was September 28, 2010, when the brother, Brent Luch, called 911 to report that his mother had been shot at the family's Telstar Circle home, in Anchorage's Turnagain neighborhood. Officers met Robert Luch walking down the street -- "I'm the one you want," he said, according to a charging document -- and a grand jury soon indicted him on charges of first- and second-degree murder.

A lawyer defending Robert, 64, conceded that a shot from the .38 caliber Ruger revolver Luch held that night killed Jocelyn, 40. But the lawyer, Andrew Lambert, disagrees with state prosecutors, who say the shooting was planned.

At the trial's start Tuesday, Assistant District Attorney Clint Campion told the jury Luch was losing control of his marriage, thinking Jocelyn was having an affair, Campion said.

"If Robert Luch couldn't have Jocelyn Luch, nobody could," Campion said. "He shot and killed his wife with the only two rounds that had ever been fired from that firearm."

The family was planning a move to Arizona, where the Luch girls would join their older brother at college. But Jocelyn was having second thoughts and worried that they wouldn't be able to afford the move, Campion said. Then, one night in the summer of 2010, Robert heard his wife on the phone with another man.

The couple argued, Campion said. Luch started locking away all the house phones, the prosecutor said. Then he bought the revolver, just 11 days before the shooting, Campion said.

Robert lost control one night when he heard a man had given his wife a ride to Kincaid Park, where she would compete in the Tuesday Night Race Series, Campion said. Later, after Robert couldn't find her at the park, he confronted her at home in the bedroom, the prosecutor said.

"He goes from upstairs in the bedroom area, down the first flight of stairs, down the second flight of stairs, across the house into the garage into the storage area and gets the loaded Ruger .38 revolver," Campion said. "He confronts her again. But this time, he's got the firearm, and he's pointing it at her. And he's angry. He's got his finger on the trigger."

"He was out of control," Campion said. "He'd lost it."

Jocelyn was standing in the bathroom in her nightgown when her husband fired two shots, the fatal shot hitting her in the abdomen, Campion said. Robert walked downstairs, dropped the gun in the garage and swallowed pills from several bottles, the prosecutor said.

Outside, the first officers to arrive met and detained Robert. He was jailed and indicted after a few days recovering at a hospital.

Lambert, Robert Luch's lawyer, said Wednesday that his client did not shoot his wife because he wanted to prevent her from seeing another man.

"Robert Luch shot Jocelyn Luch because he couldn't take it anymore," Lambert said. "He was psychologically weak and he snapped."

Jocelyn drove her husband to his wit's end with her infidelity, Lambert said. First, a daughter discovered text messages on her mother's phone, Lambert said. It wasn't until later that Robert overheard a late-night phone call between his wife and another man with whom she was having an affair, Lambert said. They fought, and Jocelyn started talking about wanting a divorce, Lambert said.

"Jocelyn started to act like a single woman while she was still married," Lambert said. "Even some of the kids thought that she wanted to start a new life without the children. Some of them maybe even wondered if she still loved them anymore."

The parents stopped talking to each other and used their children as intermediaries, Lambert said. At one point, Robert put a piece of paper divided into two columns on the refrigerator, he said. Above the two columns, Lambert said, the note read, "Who wants to keep the marriage together?" and "Who doesn't want to keep the marriage together?" The father and children signed the first side, and Jocelyn's name and her friends' names were written on the other, Lambert said.

Robert also apparently threatened his wife's boyfriend, who was scared enough that he ended the affair, Lambert said.

The strained marital situation improved for a time, Lambert said. Jocelyn became more affectionate, the lawyer said. It was during this time that Robert decided to buy the revolver, because someone had broken into their cabin near Sutton several times, the defense attorney said.

"The gun was bought for protection at the cabin," Lambert said. "This gun was not purchased, ever, with the idea of murdering Jocelyn Luch."

Several things happened to anger Robert the day of the shooting, Lambert said. First, a daughter in Arizona had loaned a family car to a man without a license, and it was impounded. When Robert yelled at the daughter, her brother in Anchorage, sticking up for her, fought with his father, making the situation more tense. Later, Robert learned that a man had driven Jocelyn to the race at Kincaid, and when he waited at the finish line, he never saw her, Lambert said.

Back at home, Robert said over and over, "Your mother didn't run the race," Lambert said. "He's not saying it to anybody in particular."

In the bathroom, holding the gun, Robert asked Jocelyn, "Who's your new boyfriend?" Lambert said.

"If you don't tell him to go away, I've got something for him," the lawyer said, quoting his client.

The couple started pushing each other, Lambert said. Both fell backward, and the revolver fired once, the bullet hitting Jocelyn in the shoulder, he said. As Robert reeled, he fired another round, the one that would ultimately kill Jocelyn, Lambert said.

Evidence police collected will show the Luches struggled that night in the bathroom, Lambert said.

"This case is really about marriage, trust and betrayal," Lambert said. "It's about a man who loved his wife, his family and his life."

The trial continues Thursday.


Reach Casey Grove at or 257-4589.